Exotic Fabric Care
The wardrobe of a fetish goth is sure to be full of leather, latex, and PVC, but how to keep those pricey and cherished items in tip-top condition is another matter. How to actually make garments out of these is a bit beyond the scope of this article, but may be addressed in the D.I.Y. section at a later date.
I adore leather, I have many clothing items made of it and have worked with it quite a lot over the years. Taking care of it only requires a few simple rituals and it will stay beautiful forever. Every time you wear it, especially if you sweat in it, be sure to wipe it clean with a soft cloth. Periodically, depending on frequency of use, you will want to properly clean it to prevent cracking and deterioration. Most of what you need to keep it beautiful can be found at leather supply or shoe repair shops. If you don't have any thing like this where you live you can order it from Tandy Leather.
First you'll want to wipe it down with a soft cloth to remove dust, then "wash it" with saddle soap, or another cleaner made especially for the purpose. Saddle soap you work into a light lather with a damp sponge then remove with a clean damp sponge. Pat it dry, then hang it to finish drying. Never dry it mechanically or leave it in the sun as this will result in shrinkage. After cleaning you will need to condition the leather in order to keep it from drying out. You can find many leather conditioners, I've seen Lexol and Neet's Foot Oil mentioned as good choices. I have heard that Mink oil can eventually damage leather, but I've never had any problems with it personally (except it a little musky).
What about wax? Dripping candles can seem to ruin anything, but it can be cleaned off. Go to a chemical supply store and get some dry ice. Be very careful not to actually touch the stuff directly, the supplier can give you safe handling instructions. If you rub the dry ice on the wax it will pop right off the leather!
As far as removing paint goes the best advice I can offer is to use some nail polish remover very sparingly, then recondition. Leather is very porous and just soaks up paint like nobody's business. I have occasionally been able to peel very thick paint off leather. Either method may potentially damage the surface and you will want to get a finisher to reseal it if drastic measures are taken and you get a bald spot.
Clothing made from rubber usually had it's beginnings in a tree. It is a natural substance, not to mention the most delicate and finicky material you can wear. If you have never worn latex, and that includes natural latex gloves... as well as 'love gloves'... and you seem to be allergic to everything that you may have allergies to latex as well. Of course there's only one way to find out, but it's something to keep in mind as reactions may be as little as irritation to more serious conditions like anaphylactic shock.
Before putting on latex you want to cover yourself in baby powder or talc so that it will slide on easily. Any powder that remains on the outside can be wiped off with a damp cloth. Be sure to mind any long fingernails or pointed jewelry as these can rip latex very easily, and the thinner it is or the tighter it is stretched, the more easily it will tear.
As far as shining up rubber once you have it on I have seen STP: Son of a Gun recommended over and over, and it can be used for vinyl and leather too § 1 . You can get this at discount stores, auto supply places, I've even seen it at some mini-marts, which could come in handy if you have an after-hours shine emergency! Armor All, it seems, can actually damage the garment it is not recommended at all. You might also want to ask your retailer what they recommend.
After each wearing it is important to clean and put it away properly. Take the latex off being careful not to rip it, and wash it in warm, never hot, water. You may want to use a mild dish soap like Ivory to get it really clean, just mind that you don't use anything meant to "cut grease" because it will damage the latex. After washing hang it to dry, then dust liberally with powder. Latex can be damaged if left unpodwered. If it touches its self it may stick to its self. If it comes into contact with any kind of oil it will deteriorate, and may even degrade into a slag heap if really abused/neglected. One should also use caution when wearing latex and leather together as the oils used to keep leather in good shape can seriously harm the rubber.§ 2
There are several ways to clean PVC. Most of the time I'll just use a little Febreeze on the inside to freshen the item up, but if it is really soiled you can hand was with Woolite in cold water. Never put it in the dryer or use a blow dryer to speed up the drying process. Actually, never use anything hot on or near the stuff because it can melt ,and the fumes from burning or smoking PVC are very dangerous.
And never, ever, ever get organic solvents on PVC. Nail polish remover is death to polymer. (I'd be dodgy about permanent markets, and nail polish as well.) PVC gets swollen easily with acetone, and then goes white and flaky.§ 3
Once you have it cleaned you can use a little Son of a Gun or Armor All on the outside to shine it up and you're ready to go.
For more information, and directions for the care of Velvet and other Delicate clothing please see 3.1 how do i take care of my goth clothes?. Not only is there collected wisdom there, you will also find liks to places that will tell you how to care for your corset, or other items.
Copyright © Antimony&Lace/Victoria Gwaed/Carmen M. G. Christgau 1998-2007